Easter Sunday. I got up early, read the New York Times, and spent some extra time warming up my voice because I was singing Mozart’s “Alleluia” in a few hours. I let the neighbor’s cat out. I had been cat-sitting for the week and Sunday was my last day on duty. Sulei had been furious with me for tricking her into the house the afternoon before, and she had a point: it was 60 degrees and there were hours of daylight left. Easter morning she shot out into the yard, throwing energetic meows back at me.
The church choir arrived at church en masse and on time to run through their anthem, proving that UCC churches can also have Easter miracles. Tommie, my accompanist and one of earth’s treasures, arrived early to do a sound check with me, giving all the elderly and deaf people who come 20 minutes early a preview of my high C. The service started. The Mozart went beautifully. Tommie and I changed places on the piano bench and I played the service. My hands were a little shaky from the adrenalin after singing the Alleluia, but “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” is in the key of C so there’s not a lot to think about. Toward the end of the service the choir sang “Jubilate, a Jazz motet,” which would have scandalized my mother.
It was a tiring morning. Besides playing the service, singing a solo and directing the choir, I felt a certain amount of pressure to not be the Elena Show—so tacky to attempt to show up the Christ. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone looking like an Easter egg in turquoise blue and bright white but everything else in my closet is either black or similarly flamboyant.
Home by noon, it took ten minutes to get a sighting of Sulei. Then I had to explain to Winston, Artemis and Freud why I love the neighbor’s cat better than I do them.
At one o’clock I put the spiral ham in the oven. In an hour I would be sinking into the bliss of a made-to-order, stress-free holiday dinner with my neighbor Gwen who knows something about just about everything. Gwen and I have created our single-persons, child-free holiday celebrations by choice. I want to emphasize the choice part. We’re not losers. We both get other invitations and sometimes we opt to do something different than our little routine. But speaking for myself as a working musician, I find that by the time the actual “family” celebration rolls around, I have had enough of any given holiday, am nearly comatose with fatigue, and don’t want to rouse myself to cheerfulness.
For our celebrations Gwen and I choose items of the traditional holiday meal we liked the most as kids. For this Easter, the menu was ham and cake. We put in a relish tray as an afterthought and it was heavy on the olives. It was my turn to buy the ham. Gwen had clearly given herself the cake assignment because for weeks she had been going on about the Lambie cake she was making. I was too busy with cats, emissions tests, taxes, and choirs to pay a lot of attention. I envisioned a flat round cake with little ears or something. But Gwen has a cast iron mold in the shape of a lamb’s body over there. It turns out it was her mother’s. It’s the Lambie cake mold of her childhood.
“What kind of cake do you want? I want it to be something you can eat.”
“Easter is my Eat Anything Day. Can you make that walnut cake you made last year?”
“I didn’t make a walnut cake. Do you mean the yellow cake with caramel icing?”
“Yeah, what you said.” The stuff was like penuche.
Gwen baked a dense yellow cake inside the cast iron mold. The icing is supposed to be boiled white icing with coconut sprinkles to replicate a lamb’s white wool, but in deference to me, the cranky musician who was providing the ham, Gwen made the penuche-like icing, rendering the lambie more of a goatie. The heaviness of the icing started to drag down the lamb so Gwen cleaved its little head straight down the middle, giving us each half a head and an ear for our first helping of cake.
After the menu, the next most important decision is the entertainment—other than us, that is. We’re pretty entertaining, just the two of us. Last year we started watching The Vicar of Dibley on Easter Sunday and didn’t finish the series until the Fourth of July.
“It needs to have a suitable theme,” Gwen said. “Something resurrectional. Or new life.”
We chose “The Snapper.” A young woman gets knocked up by a man in the hood and her Irish family takes it all in stride. There’s not a priest or a Magdalene laundry in sight. Better yet there are no American republicans to rant about the break-down of the family. There are no smarmy democrats to put their hand on the girl’s arm and talk to her earnestly about abortion. No one once uses the phrase “moral compass.”
Life: we figure out what we want to do and we do it without shame.